My name is Annette Ejiofor and I am an activist, singer, writer, belieber, and orange juice lover. I am a 19 year old headed to my third year at the University Of Ottawa. I believe in speaking up rather than sitting quietly and letting your moment to voice your opinions pass you by. I write from the heart and so every word stems from the pounding thud within my chest. If you don’t mind fifty thousand tweets per second, follow me on twitter and say hello. @annettesings01
Could Ottawa Be The Next Ferguson?
By: Annette Ejiofor
If you have not heard about what is going on in Ferguson, a city in the St. Louis County, Missouri, in the United States, you must be living under a withered rock. In 2012, the population in Ferguson was 21,135 people, with approximately 67.4% of those individuals being African American (2010 census). Another great fact worth noting is that Ferguson has 50 Caucasian police officers and three African American police officers. Make sure you read those previous two sentences again.
On Saturday, August 9, 2014, Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old African American male, was shot and killed by an officer named Darren Wilson, who is currently on paid leave. Imagine, being paid after committing an unjust murder. The stories of unarmed black men and women being shot and killed, or assaulted, or arrested, or being stopped and frisked, has spiralled out of control. According to the FBI’s most recent statistics of “justifiable homicide,” between the years 2005 and 2012, a white officer used deadly force against a black person approximately twice per week. Of those black individuals killed, almost 20% were under the age of 21, whereas 8.7% of white people killed by police officers, were younger than 21. With these numbers put forth, it’s clear to see why so many, including myself, are angry.
Mike Brown was not only murdered in plain sight during the day, but was left on the ground where he was shot, according to several eye witnesses, for about four hours. Following those four hours, Brown’s body was then picked up and put, not in an ambulance, but in a black SUV almost as if to prepare Brown for his funeral. The funeral, that never should have taken place.
Now, let us discuss what else went wrong. It is clear to see why many are angry. Another black brother has been shot and killed for simply being a black brother. We are tired of seeing one of our own being targeted, hunted, and killed. So, the citizens of Ferguson, took to the streets to protest with the biggest phrase stated being, “Don’t Shoot;” Mike Brown’s last words to officer Darren Wilson. The majority of the people of Ferguson were peaceful, respectful, calm, and collected; with some even waking up earlier to clean the streets of Ferguson following the protests every day, some standing in between the police and citizens to maintain peace, and some supplying food, water, and milk for the tear gas. The police of Ferguson used every military response they could possibly find. They used tanks, snipers, guns, tear gas, and much more. A young girl who’s Instagram name is @spookwrites, was shot in the head and, contrary to what the police had said, it was not fatal and she took to Instagram to prove she was alive.
The citizens of Ferguson were simply protesting for the arrest and prosecution of Darren Wilson but were met with hostility, gun shot wounds and much more, from the officers who were supposed to serving and protecting them. Darren Wilson still has not been arrested and we are still left fuming, still hurt, and with more brothers and sisters dead.
How does Ottawa differ? In 2005, Chad Aiken, who was 18 years old at the time, was pulled over while driving his mother’s Mercedes, by a white Ottawa police officer, then taunted, then punched in the chest. Aiken says the police officer was even on the opposite side of the road and made a U-turn before pulling him over. As part of the settlement for the case, Ottawa Police agreed to collect race-based data on traffic stops for at least two years. This of course is unfortunate because it does not include pedestrian stops and so is not the best way to measure complete race based stops. Although, it was a step in the right direction. Then, in 2008, was the arrest and detention of 27 year old Stacy Bonds. Bonds was forced to the ground and pinned by four male police officers, before having her bra cut off. Bonds was aggressively strip searched following her arrest on Rideau Street due to public intoxication. The full seven minute video can be found online but fair warning. Bonds was left alone in a jail cell half naked with soiled pants, following her search.
So, maybe Ottawa does not pull out tear gas or tanks – well not yet anyway, but we still have a long way to go to erase our mistakes. Where does change begin? With us. We need to start with programs such as Ottawa has, tracking race related arrests, attaching cameras to police officers (although this could also be tampered with), and keeping a watchful eye on those who are supposed to serve and protect us. I believe, we need to all be active in the way we let ourselves and others be treated. If you see injustice, do as the citizens of Ferguson, and make some noise about it.